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Washington state honors Medal of Honor recipients, adds names to monument

Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry, Staff Sgt. Ty Michael Carter and Capt. William D. Swenson honored during ceremony at the state's Capitol

Medal of Honor recipients Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry, Capt. William D. Swenson and Staff Sgt. Ty Michael Carter stand before the MOH Monument in Olympia. Photo credit: Gary Lott

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Many Washington state natives are already familiar with the names Petry, Swenson and Carter.

Those are the names of Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry (Joint Base Lewis-McChord's 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment), Staff Sgt. Ty Michael Carter (JBLM's 7th Infantry Division) and Capt. William D. Swenson, whom all have received the highest military honor in the nation for going beyond the call of duty and risking their lives in Afghanistan.

April 2, 2014 was a day to honor their service and sacrifices for this nation and for the state of Washington.

The Washington Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) held an unveiling and recognition ceremony for the three Washington Medal of Honor (MOH) recipients onto the Capitol MOH Monument, which honors recipients of Washington state. 

>>> Gov. Jay Inslee addresses the Medal of Honor ceremony crowd at the Washington State Capitol, April 2, 2014. Photo credit: Gary Lott

"It was a tremendous turnout, I didn't expect all these people here," said MOH recipient 1st Class Leroy Petry. "To have a majority of them be veterans made it that much more special to me, as well as having the active duty and National Guard and Reserve, and all the other branches present to show their support."

Along with the WDVA, the Washington Military Department, I Corps Honor Guard, 56th I Corps Army Band, Joint Services Support Directorate-Washington National Guard, Department of Enterprise Services, American Legion Post 3 and Inter-Tribal Warrior Society all assisted with the production of the ceremony to honor these three brave service members.

>>> Maj. Gen. Terry Farrell, commander of the 7th Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, speaks to the three Medal of Honor recipients. Photo credit: Gary Lott

"It's good to see the state representatives come out and recognize what service members do," said MOH recipient Capt. William D. Swenson. "It's part of the social contract, that we provide the security and when we come home it's always good to know that we have a team back here, and I think that's what we're seeing here today."

The local military brass also attended the service including the commander of the 7th ID, Maj. Gen. Terry Farrell; the commander of the 62nd Airlift Wing, Col. David Kumashiro; and the deputy commanding general of I Corps, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, as well as Gov. Jay Inslee.

Even the 91-year-"young" Washington state MOH recipient (Vietnam), Col. Joe Jackson was on hand to honor the three and was graceful enough to give an interview to remember.

"I'm always glad to see these young guys coming up and getting recognized for what they've done for the country, so I'm very pleased to be here."

When asked what he hopes to pass on to the three MOH recipients, Jackson responded: "I hope to give them a lot more responsibility in society because most of us are getting to be old, these are young guys coming up and they've got potential too.

I'd like to see them advanced in our organization too."

Jackson added how differently the Medal of Honor ceremonies were in his day.

"We used to just get together. In my day, we'd pay our own way to where we were going, get together, drink beers and just tell lies."

He ended with an emphasis on what the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation is all about.

"Since I've been in, we have changed our focus and now we are trying to develop the character of the young people in the United States. With our character development program, we are promoting patriotism and character in our schools, and we are even working on building an on-land museum for the MOH," he said.

The event was a great opportunity for the state of Washington to come together and honor those that have not only dedicated and sacrificed their lives for this nation, but did so on a level above and beyond the call of duty and will historically and now physically be etched into Washington state history.

Petry stared at the Capitol MOH Monument.

"I wasn't really looking at my name, I was looking at the names above mine," said Petry. That's what makes it special, those were my heroes growing up and they're still my heroes today and to have Joe Jackson there to unveil it and call him a friend now is a tremendous honor."

>>> Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry before the MOH Monument at the Washington State Capitol. Photo credit: Gary Lott

Swenson had a similar answer when looking at his name to end the ceremony.

"It's never easy to reconcile this, I see an individual's name but I know that the actions represent the entire team I worked with and I know those actions represent everything that service members do," said Swenson. "The honor of serving is a privilege unlike none other."

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